July 13, 2017

Retail training: How much is enough?



Retail has a tough turnover rate, and losing an employee when you’ve spent time training them is frustrating. How much time should you spend training your employees and is it worth it?


Investing in retail training and development is working for Walmart. As part of its $1.7 billion investment in employees in 2015, the company established a network of training academies, where store leaders spend two to six weeks learning virtually every duty in the store. Walmart reports that the training has not only helped increase sales, but also reduced turnover and created happier workers.


A new report by RSR looks at training new associates, dividing retailers into two categories: “winners” and “laggards.” It presents each category with a baseline of annual training — ten hours and asked, in a vacuum with no spend specified or implied, whether or not this seemed like enough. It then compared how many retailers thought 10 hours was enough training with those who actually provided that much or more.


For the “winners,” reality aligned pretty well with ideals. Just 18 percent responded that 10 hours of training was adequate for a new associate, and that’s what 21 percent actually provided. In contrast, not only did 32 percent of the “laggards” respond that 10 hours was enough training, but a full 62 percent almost double provided even less than that.


RSR’s Steve Rowen says, “That’s less than 10 hours to get new associates fully on-boarded and familiar enough with the company, its culture, its brand story and all corresponding tech systems and customer-facing matters to carry them through a full year.”


So what’s keeping retailers from training new employees? Often, stores get caught up in the day-to-day business of retail, and assume that because a new associate can keep a register running fairly independently, it’s better for the organization to have them there as soon as possible. But in reality, a new person struggling to complete a return or other routine task isn’t a good use of anyone’s time.


Whether you’re proud of how much training your associates get, or you’re working to bump up the amount of time spent, one thing’s for sure if you spend 10 hours or fewer a year on getting new associates up to speed, you better use those hours well.


Especially if you have stores with high turnover, it can be a challenge to balance your investment in training with the cost of replacing employees frequently. Make sure you’re getting it right in the first place:

  • Review your manuals with a fresh eye to make sure they are clear and concise. Are they geared toward long-time employees or new team members? Are there acronyms and company-specific terms in them that a new employee wouldn’t understand?
  • Talk to recently-hired employees to find weak spots in your training. Find out if training is being delivered in a way that speaks to your new hires. Do videos work better than classroom-style training or other methods you might be using? New employees can also point out areas in which your training left them unprepared or doesn’t reflect the realities of day-to-day business.
  • Attend training sessions yourself and find out what new employees really learn. Sitting in on a real training session, especially if you can be incognito, will quickly tell you if your training policies and procedures are being followed or if you need to make changes.


If you’re confident in your training materials and your policies hit the mark, but you’re not confident that training is actually taking place, there are steps you can take. Start by reading Bad Stores and How to Fix Them and form a plan to get your stores and their training practices back on track.  




Image: iStock